Psalms 41-43   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Psalm 41

Image in the Public Domain




The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226


Reading the Book of Psalms from the beginning leads one to notice certain recurring themes.  In Psalms 41, 42, and 43, taken together, I notice certain motifs on which I have commented in previous posts.  They include the following:

  1. Being seriously ill and calling out to God for deliverance,
  2. Being the victim of malicious gossip,
  3. Seeking divine vindication,
  4. Wishing the worst for one’s enemies, and
  5. Trusting in God while wondering why God has permitted one to suffer so badly.

My previous comments on those themes stand.

I prefer instead to focus on the question of the translation of the opening of Psalm 41.  The rendering of the opening of that text in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) is typical of most English-language translations:

Happy are they who consider the poor and the needy!

the LORD will deliver them in the time of trouble.

–Verse 1

In TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) we read of one who is

thoughtful of the wretched.

The pious person in The Revised English Bible (1989)

has a concern for the helpless.

However, as Mitchell J. Dahood writes, slander, not helping the poor and needy/the wretched/the helpless, is a major concern in Psalm 41.  Therefore the Dahood translation of that verse reads

How blest the man prudent in speech,

in time of danger may Yahweh deliver him.

–Verse 2

One can read Dahood’s full case for this translation in Psalms I:  1-50 (1966), page 249.

Prudence in speech and writing is a virtue, is it not?  Indeed, one need not apologize for oratorical and written prudence.  Furthermore, the lack of prudence leads to troubles one could have avoided easily.  Yet a lack of prudence in speech and writing becomes (temporarily, at least) a political asset for some; it is allegedly plain spokenness.  The Dahood translation prompts me to think of James 3:1-12, a passage about the power of speech for positive and negative purposes.  That text needs no commentary, for it explains itself.

The slanderers of Psalm 41 are of the same ilk as the enemies of Psalm 42, the treacherous men of Psalm 43.  One temptation is, to use an old expression, fight fire with fire.  Although that strategy is effective in fighting literal fires sometimes, it is probably not the best spiritual practice most of the time.  How about trusting in God instead?  How about fighting fire with fire extinguisher instead?  How about, in the style of Jesus, forgiving one’s enemies?

This is difficult, of course.  Yet we need not operate under the delusion that we ought to be able to do it under our own power.  No, we rely on grace.






Posted August 9, 2017 by neatnik2009 in James 3, Psalm 41, Psalm 42, Psalm 43

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  1. Pingback: Guide Post to the Septuagint Psalter Project | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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